Division 1 Season Preview

April 12, 2018

Compiled by Will Hunter

Twitter@Will_Hunter89

 

BENTLEIGH

2017 Finish: 3rd

Key Inclusions: Steve Murray (Wodonga), Jack Firns (St Kevins), Tom Cunningham (St Kevins)

Notable Departures: Kayne O’Brien (De La Salle), Saf Balic (Oakleigh District)

The Demons’ rise from a 1-5 start to a Preliminary Final was one of the stories of the season, however, upon reflection, you wonder what they could have been achieved had things panned out a little differently early in the year. Their injury toll in the first few rounds was massive, and there is no doubt Bentleigh spent a lot of petrol tickets to make up for lost ground and salvage their season. To ultimately play off for a Grand Final berth was a tremendous achievement given the circumstances, and big things are expected from the side in 2018. The team retains the majority of its starting senior 22 from last year and added several high-calibre players to its line-up, so the early indication is that Bentleigh will be a force to be reckoned with. The side already boasts an outstanding core midfield group coupled with two of the best ruckmen in the competition in Mitch Smart and Andrew Walsh, and the addition of Wodonga’s Steve Murray and SKOB’s Jack Firns will provide extra support at either end of the ground. Should the Demons get a clear run at it on the injury front, then the premiership cup may very well be heading to Arthur Street.

Season Prediction: 2nd

Tom Backman

 

CHELSEA HEIGHTS

2017 Finish: Premiers (Division 2)

Key Inclusions: Dylan Sloan (St Kilda City), Harry Czarnecki (St Kilda City), Daniel Campisano (Blackburn)

Notable Departures: Jackson Fry (Hampton Park)

The Heighters are back in Division 1 for the first time since 2015 following their Division 2 Grand Final victory over Murrumbeena. Pleasingly for the club, they have kept most of their playing group together as they make the jump back to the SFNL’s top flight, with defender Jackson Fry their only glaring omission. St Kilda City stars Dylan Sloan and Harry Czarnecki and decorated key position player Daniel Campisano headline the arrivals, while the club will also regain Cal Dodson following his recovery from health issues last year. Several of their premiership stars including Phil Smith, Phil Matheson and James Robertson are entering the twilight of their glittering careers, so it will be interesting to see how their fair in Division 1, however, there is still more than enough younger talent coming through to ensure the club will be competitive this year.

Season Prediction: 9th

Cal Dodson

 

CHELTENHAM

2017 Finish: 6th

Key Inclusions: Drew Kelly (Beaumaris), Billy Robertson (Albury)

Notable Departures: Will Edmunds (Dingley), Shaun Cusack (Dingley)

Last year was another season that promised much, but ultimately failed to deliver. With a swag of handy recruits coming across to Jack Barker Oval in the preseason, the club was primed to return to finals action, however, despite several stirring wins and promising performances, the club ultimately fell short. But with another year under their belts, and the disappointment from last year spurring them on, 2018 looms as the year Cheltenham finally jumps back into the top five. Sean McLaren last year emerged as one of the Southern league’s preeminent big men, finishing equal runner-up in the Ellis Medal, and again remains key to the Rosellas’ chances, while Jack Barclay, Daniel Vaughan and Jack Worrell should again prove prominent. The additions of Drew Kelly and Billy Robertson and the return of Tim Wigney from a knee injury further strengthens a side that on paper already looks capable of pushing for finals, so expect the Rosellas to take steps further forward in 2018.

Season Prediction: 5th

Jack Worrell

 

DINGLEY

2017 Finish: Premiers

Key Inclusions: Simon Hallsworth (Wagga Tigers), Will Edmunds (Cheltenham)

Notable Departures: Calhan McQueen (Burleigh), Chris Morgan (retired), Ryan Stewart (retired)

The Dingley dynasty continues to have the SFNL world in awe. In an era in which equalisation measures are intended to level the playing field, the Dingoes’ ability to continually rejuvenate its list is nothing short of remarkable. Several champion players have hung up the boots since the club’s first Division 1 premiership in 2015, and ruckman Chris Morgan and midfielder Ryan Stewart joined that illustrious list following last season’s triumph. Additionally, the loss of effervescent spearhead Cal McQueen cannot be overstated. Not only has ‘The Dream’ topped the League goalkicking in both of the past two seasons, but his boundless energy around the playing group and penchant for breath-taking on-field feats always provided a lift for his teammates. However, in former WAFL ruckman Simon Hallsworth and Cheltenham forward Will Edmunds, the Dingoes have found adequate replacements. In addition to established stars in co-Captains Jackson Peet and Trav La Rocca, key defender Andrew Frost, gun mid Chris Horton-Milne and mercurial match-winner Daniel Farmer, the club continues to blood new players into its senior side, which has helped keep the club at the top of the League pecking order. The club begins the 2018 season vying for an unprecedented fourth straight senior premiership, and it remains a very strong chance of re-writing the history books. However, with several other clubs building strong lists in pursuit of the Division 1 title, another Dingoes flag is far from assured.

Season Prediction: 3rd

Jackson Peet

 

EAST MALVERN

2017 Finish: 5th

Key Inclusions: Stephen Brewer (Greenvale), Marc Lonergan (North Heidelberg), Brad Stringer (Strathfieldsaye)

Notable Departures: Matt Terech (Seaford), Sam Lonie (Seaford), Ed Sim (Whitehorse Pioneers), Jimmy Dowling (Yinnar), Isaac McCrimmon (Noosa), Nick McCann (Old Xavarians)

Another club that over promised and under delivered in 2017, the Panthers will be out to make amends this season. The club picked up several high-profile recruits last year, with many pundits expecting East Malvern to be a bona fide flag contender, but despite the hype, the side failed to capitalise on their potential and bombed out in the Elimination Final. The club has also lost several talented players during the recent off-season, including SFNL Interleague reps Matt Terech, Ed Sim and Jimmy Dowling, while one of last year’s boom recruits Nathan Henley will likely miss the season with an achilles injury. Nevertheless, the additions of ex-Port Melbourne champ Steve Brewer, North Heidelberg big man Marc Lonergan (brother of Geelong’s Tom) and Strathfieldsaye premiership star Brad Stringer (brother of Bomber Jake) ensures there is enough talent in the side to remain competitive. With midfield ace Nathan Robinson at the helm for 2018, and superstars Ryan Mullett and Dean Millhouse continuing, expect the Panthers to be right in the mix for another finals berth.

Season Prediction: 6th

Steve Brewer

 

MORDIALLOC

2017 Finish: Runner-up

Key Inclusions: Matt Moore (Kilcunda Bass), Harry Haley (North Ringwood), Hamish Curtis (De La Salle), Michael Spohn (Black Rock)

Notable Departures: Chris Langdon (Highett), Scott Bradley (Glenrowan Kelly Tigers), Alistair Pike (Glenrowan Kelly Tigers), Matt Ravenall (Tyabb), Simon Fragiacomo (retired), Dean Miller (retired)

Mordialloc are no strangers to the big dance, having featured in four grand finals in the last five years across Divisions 1 and 2. However, a Division 1 Senior premiership still eludes the powerhouse SFNL club, with two grand final defeats to the Dingoes in three years still burning deep. Last year, Mordi entered the big dance as the favourite, having belted their Dingley rivals by 10 goals in the Second Semi Final, but their lacklustre performance on the big stage a fortnight later, albeit in difficult conditions, will no doubt still burn in their psyche. To that end, expect Mordialloc to feature prominently at the pointy end as they look to atone for last season’s disappointment and claim a maiden Div 1 flag. Despite the losses of senior players Simon Fragiacomo and Chris Langdon, the Bloods midfield remains one of the strongest in the competition, with Danny Nicholls, Todd Bastion, Jordan Derbyshire and Aaron Kneebone leading the charge. Their forward line also presents a formidable challenge for opposition defences, with Matt Moore joining Steve Tolongs and James Morris to form a potent three-pronged attack. Barring another horrific run of injuries a la 2016 (touch wood!), it is hard to see this year’s Grand Final not again featuring the red and whites.

Season Prediction: 1st

Ben Humphrey

 

OAKLEIGH DISTRICT

2017 Finish: 7th

Key Inclusions: Saf Balic (Bentleigh), Mitchell Pierce (Emerald), Brody Ledder (St Kevins)

Notable Departures: Andrew Howison (Dromana), Patrick Carroll (Ashwood), Ryan Carroll (Ashwood), David Velardo (Bayswater), Daniel Saldanha (Springvale Districts)

Following a stunning Division 1 debut in 2016 that saw the Oaks reach a Preliminary Final, the club took a slide down to seventh last year. Granted the club wasn’t helped by the unavailability of key personnel at times during the season, but the Districts nevertheless dropped several winnable games throughout the season. Unfortunately, the club has lost several key players during the off-season, including Andrew Howison, Dave Velardo and the Carroll brothers, which it will find hard to replace. However, Oakleigh, under new coach Phil Harvey, has addressed a glaring need by luring young Bentleigh ruckman Saf Balic across to Princes Highway, while Ryan Pearson, Jake Mullen and Paul Fermanis will continue to lead from the front. While on paper it’s hard to see Oakleigh District making finals, it does have enough match-winners on its list to claim some scalps along the way.

Season Prediction: 7th

Brody Hodic

 

PORT MELBOURNE COLTS

2017 Finish: 9th

Key Inclusions: Callum Cathcart (St Pauls), Tom Nicholls (De La Salle), Andrew Lovett (North Heidelberg), Sean Gunning (Caulfield)

Notable Departures: Nil

Some stunning home upsets over higher-ranked opponents were the highlights of an otherwise dismal season for the Colts, which was in stark contrast to their stunning undefeated debut season in Division 2 the previous year. However, the club has added several stars to its list in 2018 to lead the charge up the Division 1 ladder. Mercurial Bulldog and Sandringham Zebras-listed Cal Cathcart joins the club, and with the abolition of the VFL Development competition looks set to see more game time in the Southern League. A notable ball-winner and goal-kicker, Cathcart has the ability to turn a game in minutes. Former Essendon speedster Andrew Lovett and ex-Caulfield Bear Sean Gunning will also provide extra midfield support, alongside established stars Lew Mildenhall and Jake Wood, while De La Salle forward Tom Nicholls is set to bolster the club’s offensive stocks. Meanwhile young gun Max Mitchell-Russell, who enjoyed a breakout season last year, is a chance to debut with Coburg Lions this weekend and may spend a bit of time with the VFL club in 2018. But few clubs enjoy a stronger home ground advantage than the Colts at the Portress, so we may again see Port claim several big scalps as it chases a finals berth.

Season Prediction: 8th

Jake Wood

 

ST KILDA CITY

2017 Finish: 8th

Key Inclusions: Cameron Hansen (South Belgrave), Aaron Purvis (South Belgrave), Mark Griffiths (North Ringwood)

Notable Departures: Dylan Sloan (Chelsea Heights), Harry Czarnecki (Chelsea Heights), Troy Kelm (North Bendigo), Ray Lengyel (Noble Park), Thomas Motlop (Lorne), Beau Runnalls (North Geelong), Matt Runnalls (North Geelong)

After a period of success at the turn of the decade, the Saints have spent the last four seasons languishing in the bottom three of the SFNL ladder. Not even a bevy of big-name recruits could lift the club above eighth last season and, unfortunately for St Kilda City, the majority of these recruits have moved on for 2018, including Harry Czarnecki (second in the club B&F), Ray Lengyel, Troy Kelm, Thomas Motlop and the Runnalls brothers. However, their list of inclusions is almost as lengthy as the departures and includes a couple of familiar faces in Cameron Hanson and former SFNL Division 1 B&F winner Aaron Purvis. Big-bodied midfielder Mark Griffiths and ex-Heatherton coach Chris Keenan will also call the Peanut Farm home this season, however, another season of treading water is forecast for St Kilda City.

Season Prediction: 10th

Aaron Purvis

 

ST PAULS

2017 Finish: 4th

Key Inclusions: Matt Herbstreit (Kilcunda Bass), Brendan Dawes (Seaford), Curtis Murfett (Seaford)

Notable Departures: Harley Ambrose (Murrumbeena), Callum Cathcart (Port Colts), James Sziller (St Bedes/Mentone Tigers)

One of the reals surprise packets of the 2017 season, St Pauls shocked the competition to finish third on the ladder behind Grand Finalists Dingley and Mordialloc by percentage alone. They played an exciting, run-and-gun brand of football that caught many opposition sides unawares. And the improvement didn’t come from a glut of external recruits, but rather from the development of its young kids from the Under 19s. Unfortunately, their inexperience found them out in the end, with a straight-sets finals exit a disappointing end to an impressive season. Fast forward six months and the excitement is building ahead of 2018, with further improvement expected from the young pups. Sandringham VFL-listed players Cal Cathcart and James Sziller have moved on, and while they would be incredibly handy to have in the side, they played just two senior games each last season, so it would unfair to suggest the Dogs would be too adversely affected by their omission based on their contributions last season. However, captain Harley Ambrose, who made the shock switch to St Pauls during the summer, leaves a much bigger hole to fill. Meanwhile, former Dogs Matt Herbstreit and Brendan Dawes return to the Kennel, bringing with them valuable Division 1 Senior premiership experience to the young side. While it is hard to get a read on St Pauls in 2018, expect them to again be up around the mark and building towards a premiership in the next couple of years.

Season Prediction: 4th

Matt Kreymborg